Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis

Beyond the COuch

A Renewal of Focus on Community Psychoanalysis

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Nationally and internationally, the field of psychoanalysis is awakening to a current of interest in returning to a focus on community services and approaches in obvious response to the needs of our times. 

For several years, a 15-member Community Psychoanalysis Study Group and Task Force at the WBCP has been focused on the second part of the WBCP mission: to educate and support psychoanalysts, psychotherapists and scholars, and to collaborate with members of the community in applying psychoanalytic knowledge to psychosocial problems.

Our hope has been to find contemporary ways to return to the roots of psychoanalytic tradition in encouraging trainees and training programs and bring community back into the field of awareness and practice. In the 1920s and 30s, psychoanalysis was intensively focused on and involved in social issues, and free clinics appeared and were active. 

“We have so much to offer, why don’t we share it with the world.” 

Early on, psychoanalysts also had a place outside their consulting rooms. First there was Anna Freud, August Aichorn, Eric Erikson, D.W. Winnicot, Dorothy Burlingham, John Bowlby, and more recently Beverly Stoute, Dorothy Holmes, Stuart Twenlow, Gil Kliman, Neil Altman, Peter Fonagy, Vamik Volkan, just to name a few of many who have made tremendous contributions using psychoanalytic concepts to explain and facilitate change regarding social and cultural problems.  

And while at WBCP, there are many who have similarly been involved in community work over the years, the tides have changed and we now live at a time when everyone in the field needs training and experience. Taking psychoanalysis “beyond the couch,” also implies a more democratic access to treatment, strengthens people in the places they live, work, and raise their families. And it forces we clinicians to develop a mutual language, to translate psychoanalytic concepts and questions without the jargon.

We believe that as psychoanalysts and mental-health professionals, the more we get out into actual communities, we will discover that we can do a lot of good for our poor broken world, who needs us more than ever. As Harriet Wolffe said in her IPA podcast, “we have so much to offer, why don’t we share it with the world.”

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